In the early 20th Century, one lady dominated children’s fiction. One of her chosen subject: mysteries. Since Enid Blyton put her pen down, few have attempted the genre. They certainly haven’t made the same splash Robin Stevens has. Move over Famous Five and Secret Seven, Wells and Wong are on the case. The trouble is, they didn’t have a case to solve until they find the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. Murder Most Unladylike.
The teachers assume it was a terrible accident but Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells know better. Their investigation has the charm of the Blyton books but it also reminded me of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Daisy is the natural leader, Hazel her loyal Watson. Sometimes. There’s tension between the girls; Hazel, our likeable narrator, struggles to tolerate Daisy’s bossy ways. Can their friendship stand the test?
I loved the language of the book. It’s set in the same period as the classics, 1930s. The girls speak properly as all young ladies of Deepdean School for Girls should. It’s so brilliantly English. The word ‘spiffing’ is definitely used. As well as the characters being well written, the plot will keep you guessing. It appeals to a young audience but can be enjoyed by anyone of any age.
After solving the murder of a teacher within school walls, the girls thought they would have a quiet time at Daisy Wells family home: Fallingford. Unfortunately not.
It’s Daisy’s birthday and her mother is throwing her a fabulous tea party. However, no one’s paying much attention to Daisy. She’s very vocal and upset about that, but you still love her. She’s fiery and determined. Hazel, our lamb of a narrator, compliments Daisy’s lion-like attitude. The perfect combo for solving crimes, just like Holmes and Watson. And she’s quite right about everyone being preoccupied as one of their numbers finds arsenic in their tea.
This book is a brilliant follow up to Murder Most Unladylike. It feels far more mature, Robin Stevens doesn’t talk down to her audience. She portrays the complex emotions of doubt and loyalty when your entire family is suspected of murder. And like the first, you are kept constantly guessing. There are many twists and turns which makes for a very complex, confusing and equally satisfying read.